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Thursday, November 10, 2005

The future is here... and it sucks

3 November 2005 19:50 EST Posted by Highlander

One of the things I looked forward to from childhood on was living in the 21st Century. It's been a consolation to me as I grew steadily older, through my teens and twenties and thirties, using up and wringing out from the rag of my lifetime every last drop of anything you could remotely describe as my youth, that although I might be inevitably and irreversibly approaching middle age, at the very least, I was also approaching that epochal and much storied turning point, where I would get to peek into not only the changing of a century, but of an actual millenium.

For me, a lifelong science fiction geek, the year 2000 and beyond was a magical concept. I absolutely loved the idea that I might very well live to see a time period so constantly and continually evoked and imagined by so many of my favorite authors. As the turn of the millenium drew nearer, I was filled, more and more, with anticipation. Oh, sure, it was abundantly clear to me that most of my favorite fantasists had substantially missed the mark in a lot of different details... I wasn't going to get to vacation under a domed city on the Moon or Mars within my lifetime, nor could I go into a Radio Shack and buy a working jetpack, and it wasn't very likely I was going to get to ride around in a flying car any time in the forseeable future, either.

But, still, the world did and does have personal computers, DVD players, the Internet, cell phones, laser-beam tape measures, remote controls, holographic postal stamps, and a whole lot of other really cool shit, and if capitalism guaranteed anything, it was that people would keep inventing nifty gadgets as long as there was a profit to be had from doing it. So I was content. The future might not be what it used to be, but still, it was pretty spiffy nonetheless.

Then this idiot Bush stole the millenial Presidential election, and my entire 21st Century experience went straight to hell. It's a grisly irony, I think, that the dominant political figure of the real world 2001 is the ramrod for a social movement that would happily turn the clock back to 1952 tomorrow if they only could. And not even the real 1952, which was a terrible time full of anti-intellectual hysteria and paranoid xenophobia, but to some weird conservative fantasy 1952, where white men still wear coats, hats and ties whether they're at home or the office, white women are all smiling married mothers who stay home all day and bake, and non-whites are all cheerfully employed doing menial labor for 35 cents an hour any time they're not at church.

In fantasy-1952, there is no minimum wage, gas costs 22 cents a gallon and every service station has a uniformed fellow with a big smile who cleans your window and checks your oil in addition to filling your tank for you, cars are roughly the size of Texas but there's still plenty of free parking because only Caucasian folk can afford them, the only known midwinter celebration is Christmas, and everybody goes to Sunday School and prayer meeting. Nobody is homosexual, nobody gets pregnant before they're married, Americans are always the good guys and we always win, and everybody loves the President.

This is the antithesis of the egalitarian, fully integrated, sexually liberated and high tech future promised in the pages of Amazing Stories and Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine when I was growing up, and while I can accept that that future is never going to actually happen, I have to say that I would certainly have liked to live to see a 21st century that embodied something besides a passionate headlong heartsick reach for a mythical American heyday that never actually existed.

Somehow or other, Bush and his insanely bigoted clique of pinhead conservatives have hijacked my future. And if I can't have jet packs, domed cities, orbital colonies and rocket cars, then at the very least I'd like to have a world where Americans aren't entirely despised outside our own borders, healthcare is affordable, tolerance and open mindedness are universally regarded as admirable social traits, and religious fanaticism is an acknowledged psychological aberration.

I want my 21st Century back, dammit. Who do I talk to about that?

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